PROFILE: ALEXANDRA GOVE, FOUNDER, HYGGE LIFE
DENVER, COLORADO & AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND
Then Story: Working for a shoe company
Now Story: Creator/Owner Hygge Life
Curb Moment: A walk on a gloomy day in Amsterdam
Inspired by the feeling gained from a single word, Alexandra Gove followed her heart and her ingenuity across multiple continents to create a home decor brand intended to bring joy, comfort and meaning to life’s every day moments.
Your career path is not the most linear or traditional, tell us about it, and your background?
I grew up in Castle Rock, Colorado and went to school at Wake Forest in North Carolina for track and field. I was a hurdler. After graduation, I worked as a track and field coach, and then in hospitality and events management up in Vail. While I was in Vail, I met Koen who is now my fiancé, and we started dating. Koen was doing an internship in
Vail but he was scheduled to return home to his native Netherlands to finish school and since we wanted to continue to see each other, I decided I would move to the Netherlands for a while. So, I ended up taking a job working at Crocs, the shoe company. Eventually I left Crocs and I started Hygge Life. That was 2013!
How did Hygge Life come to be?
The first inkling, (what you might call a curb moment) came when I was working at Crocs. Crocs was actually a very good company and I was grateful to be there, but at the same time, I felt like there was a different path for me; like something was missing. I remember one particular day when I was walking to work from my commuter train that I felt a bit down. Here I was in a foreign place which for the most part was really exciting but, at times, I also felt lonely. Not long after that day, I was in Copenhagen where I noticed candles lit in the windows of the houses I walked by, which is something they do in the Netherlands to make things cozy and I liked the feeling that gave me; kind of a warm and comforting feeling. Not long after that day while traveling, I picked up a magazine with a description of a word that reflected that feeling: Hygge. The word is used to describe the way Danish people live; being joyful, living in the moment, and making their homes warm and cozy. I thought ‘whoa, this is it. I’m going to create a business around this concept.’
So you quit your job?
Well not at first, but ironically my work visa was only for a year so I needed to figure out a new plan to stay overseas. I had a minor in entrepreneurship so the idea of being a business owner appealed to me. Koen and I were brainstorming options and came across something called the Dutch American Friendship Treaty which granted Americans a visa to start a business. It required putting a business plan in place to demonstrate how your business could contribute to the Dutch economy. When it got accepted Hygge Life was born! That was in 2013.
“hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is the Scandinavian art of creating joy & coziness in life’s smallest everyday moments, whatever the season or time of day… the hygge life shop is a curation of European home decor inspired by these moments.”
Can you elaborate?
Sure, when I was living in Europe there was so much about the European way of life that I loved. My general experience was one where people savored things more whether it was a good meal, or glass of wine, or a simple conversation with a friend. There was more of an emphasis on creating an inviting, comfortable and cozy home. Sometimes it was just a few simple items, such as a glowing candle, a beautifully woven wool blanket or a special coffee mug that made the difference. This lifestyle made an impression on me and I wanted to bring it with me to the US and recreate it.
At first we started with European vintage items like wool blankets and candle holders. Then we came across these beautiful old antlers. I stuffed suitcases full of beautiful things and brought them home to the states to sell. The following summer we decided to do some traveling and took Hygge on the road. We bought a 1971 camper, painted it blue and wrote Hyggelife.com on the side. We called it the Hygge bus.
We drove through the Swiss Alps, Germany, France; all over. We used our bus as kind of a general store to sell our goods. We also sold poffertjes which are mini Dutch pancakes that we cooked up in a large iron skillet and sold at festivals. We’d figure out how to get permits or work with the local mayor of a town so we could sell our poffertjes. Along the way we’d drink coffee at little cafes, share meals with total strangers, and mark special moments with a glass of wine or ale. The elements of that lifestyle was something I wanted to capture and evolve in my business.
Clearly you have! What’s ahead for you and Hygge?
Well as you know we already have the Turkish textiles, and now we are expanding and are bringing in these wonderfully soft European sheepskins in unique sizes. We are doing pop up shops and markets but have now also moved into retail shops and will have a wholesale business as well so it’s all very busy but exciting right now.
Obviously you are comfortable taking risks and doing some creative problem solving! What advice, tips or insights can you offer to help others get Off the Curb?
One of the most important things I’ve learned (that I wish I’d learned earlier) is to be confident and speak up about what you want to do even if you don’t know how you are going to do it. When I first had the idea for Hygge I was insecure about sharing my idea with my peers because it was different than the typical career path others my age were following. I was also basing my business on a ‘feeling’ not necessarily a fully baked plan or direction. Maybe because I didn’t want criticism, I held back. What I found out though, was the more I talked openly about it, the more my idea started to gel for me. So I would say, ‘don’t hold back, speak up for what you want and how you see things, and just put yourself out there!’
To learn more about Alexandra and Hygge Life check out hyggelife.com